Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken out in favor of measuring Germany's prosperity not only in terms of gross domestic product. During the first visit by a head of government from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, he was impressed by the "gross national happiness" that was recorded there, which also includes other factors of well-being in addition to economic power.
"Bhutan plays a pioneering role in measuring prosperity," said the SPD politician at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Lotay Tshering. "Bhutan's idea of including the happiness of its citizens is fascinating."
The idea for Gross National Happiness came from then-King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the early 1970s. It is based on indicators such as good governance, sustainable social and economic development, promotion of culture and environmental protection. Scholz said: "I think it makes a lot of sense not only to measure our prosperity based on economic variables, but also to include non-material factors." A step was taken with the first annual economic report by the traffic light government, in which social and ecological indicators were also taken into account. That was agreed in the coalition agreement and implemented by Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens).
Transferable to Germany? - "I don't know it"
Happiness as a state goal has a centuries-old tradition in Bhutan. The sentence can already be found in a legal code from the 17th century: "If the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no reason for the existence of this government." Today, the gross national happiness is a real unique selling point of the small state in the middle of the Himalayas.
Tshering did not want to say whether he thinks it can be transferred to Germany. "I really don't know," he admitted. "By the way, I don't run around preaching happiness either. It's a government philosophy or concept that we follow." All members of government would follow this philosophy in everyday life and then transfer it to their government work.
"Land of the Thunder Dragon" a small state
Bhutan lies between the two great powers of India and China, has fewer than 800,000 inhabitants and is about the size of Baden-Württemberg. The country with its more than 7000 meter high peaks, which is called "Land of the Thunder Dragon" in its own language, is one of the most isolated in the world. It only established diplomatic relations with Germany in November 2020.
Prime Minister Tshering is now the first member of the government of Bhutan to be in Germany. Although he represents one of the smallest countries in the world, he was received in Berlin in the same way as a French or American president on an inaugural visit: military honors in front of the chancellery, joint press conference with the chancellor after the meeting. A visit to Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace is also on his agenda.
Only climate neutral country in the world
Gross National Happiness is not the country's only unique selling proposition. It is also considered the only carbon neutral country in the world. This means that at least as many climate-damaging gases are broken down as are emitted. Bhutan achieves this through huge forests that cover more than two-thirds of the country's surface and absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The constitution stipulates that at least 60 percent must be forest. The heavily industrialized Germany has set itself the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2045 - above all by converting the energy supply to renewable energies such as wind, hydrogen or the sun.